In addition to allowing the company to deal with issues before they become public, an effective speak-up culture can reduce regulatory fines, downtime, and lost business. Early detection can also prevent malpractice in that illegitimate activities are exposed to those with the power to act.
The person with local power may be a middle manager or a corporate director. The person with central or external power might be a regulator, legislator, or journalist.
Representation in Court
Whistleblowing exposes misconduct and wrongdoing, often related to business or health care. It can include bribery, fraud, abuse of authority, mismanagement and incompetence, nepotism, discrimination, environmental toxins or threats to public health, financial malpractices, workplace bullying, or unethical research practices. Employees who report such problems face a long and complex process often marked by retaliation and loss of job, reputation, and career advancement opportunities. They may also suffer physical and emotional distress and financial losses. Peer support is critical in helping whistleblowers remain resilient to these arduous circumstances.
The figure below illustrates how increased inquiry errors reduce the utility of speaking up (dotted lines). Although a high reporting rate results in more frequent inquiries, it is only when the inquiries are accurate that whistleblowing has its full effect. This finding lends credence to the need for policymakers to study how institutional topography influences whistleblowing rather than simply imposing a policy of carte blanche speaking up.
A well-functioning internal whistleblower system is critical to any organization's health, especially in a large institution. An independent reporting mechanism that offers employees anonymity and confidentiality is the best way to promote a culture of transparency and trust. This system should also have an appropriate channel for reporting misconduct and a clear procedure to address the issues raised by the whistleblower.
Preparation for Trial
Many whistleblowers fear retaliation or do not believe their report will result in meaningful action. This is especially true when the wrongdoing involves a large business or government agency. Whether it is a company engaging in corporate corruption, or the federal government ignoring whistleblower allegations, retaliation can impact career options and personal relationships.
A leading whistleblower attorney must bear enormous financial costs, often for years after their reports are made public. They have to pay attorney fees and sometimes lose their income and benefits. This can impact retirement plans, family vacations, and children's schools and activities. In addition, they may have to use savings or borrow money to pay legal fees. They also risk losing professional credentials or state licensure or being demoted or fired, which can have long-term consequences on spousal job options and financial stability.
Thorough trial preparation is critical for a successful outcome. This requires massive research to find witnesses who can testify, documents and other evidence that support the case, and even experts who can explain complex topics to the jury. It also means constructing a strong narrative and ensuring all the pieces fit together.
The most important thing to remember about trial preparation is that the judge and jury will only take the time to listen to a story they believe in and think is believable. It doesn't matter how many exhibits are presented or expert testimony is given; if the attorney can present a strong and convincing case, the jury will give it more credence.
Defending Your Case
A well-functioning whistleblowing system is one of the best tools for combatting corruption and endemic malpractice. It allows the organization to address damage before it escalates and to demonstrate to the public that it takes compliance seriously. It also reduces the risk of a scandal that could harm the brand's reputation.
However, even minor misclassification errors and inaccurate resolutions can lead to significant delays in the process. This can impact the effectiveness of a whistleblower's actions, particularly where the reports are to internal authorities and public disclosure. Peer support can help whistleblowers to cope with these adversities and remain resilient.
The US False Claims Act allows private individuals who discover illegal activities involving federal funds to file a whistleblower lawsuit and share in any monetary awards that may result from successful actions against an individual or entity defrauding the government. Whistleblowers, or relators, can receive between 10 and 30% of the monetary sanctions awarded to the Department of Justice for their actions.
Negotiating a Settlement
When a whistleblower takes on a powerful and entrenched institution, they often face retaliation. This can hurt the career and reputation of individuals who step forward to report perceived wrongdoing in public service. Peer support can be crucial in helping them persevere under these difficult circumstances.
While many people may want to quit their job, a whistleblower might find it necessary to continue working to pay the bills and maintain a family life. This can financially strain a family and negatively affect their long-term health. As a result, the legal system must provide adequate and effective compensation for whistleblowers.
Negotiating a settlement can take months or even years. While this can be frustrating, it is important to stay focused and remember that a lawyer's goal is to ensure you receive a fair and just outcome.
During negotiations, a leading attorney must have multiple "aces in their hand." It is important to remember that revealing confidential information and engaging in passive deception is unethical. Moreover, it is unethical to accept an unfavorable settlement on behalf of a client. In addition, rejecting an offer within the authorized range is unethical without communicating that rejection to a client.